Phylogenetic diversity is a better predictor of wetland community resistance to Alternanthera philoxeroides invasion than species richness.
Highly biodiversity communities have been shown to better resist plant invasions through complementarity effects. Species richness (SR) is a widely used biodiversity metric but lacks explanatory power when there are only a few species. Communities with low SR can have a wide variety of phylogenetic diversities (PD), which might allow for a better prediction of invasibility. We assessed the effect of diversity reduction of a wetland community assemblage typical of the Beijing area on biotic resistance to invasion of the exotic weed Alternanthera philoxeroides and compared the reduction in SR and PD in predicting community invasibility. The eight studied resident species performed similarly when grown alone and when grown in eight-species communities together with the invasive A. philoxeroides. Variation partitioning showed that PD contributed more to variation in both A. philoxeroides traits and community indicators than SR. All A. philoxeroides traits and community indicators, except for evenness index, showed a linear relationship with PD. However, only stem length of A. philoxeroides differed between the one- and two-species treatments, and the diversity index of the communities differed between the one- and two-species treatments and between the one- and four-species treatments. Our results showed that in natural or semi-natural wetlands with relatively low SR, PD may be a better predictor of invasibility than SR. When designing management strategies for mitigating A. philoxeroides invasion, deliberately raising PD is expected to be more efficient than simply increasing species number.